Some snub black tie event in favor of rally for adjunct faculty
January 24, 2019
There was activity both inside and out of the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts last Saturday during the university’s 53rd annual sold-out Golden Circle Theatre Party.
Santa Clara’s longest-running black tie scholarship fundraiser hosted James Taylor as this year’s main entertainment, but the folk singer was almost upstaged by the Santa Clara faculty, students and alumni gathered outside of the venue holding a peaceful demonstration to let university leadership and donors know they wanted a say on the policies that govern them and a fair process to vote on unionization.
Sophomore Vasudha Kumar co-MC’ed the Jan. 19 rally alongside philosophy lecturer Madeline Cronin to a crowd of over 100 people. Kumar focused on how faculty treatment is fundamentally linked to student outcomes.
“The student-educator relationship is the foundation of any university or educational institution, so the fact that our faculty have little security, stability or say in the curriculum is upsetting,” Kumar said. “When faculty are here on such short-term contracts, it limits our ability to connect and develop close relationships with them and limits our access to the resources our incredible faculty have to offer.”
For Cronin, the highlight of the event was seeing the broad measures of support and appreciating students in attendance, but noted that there’s still work to be done.
“The university is treating contingent faculty as a liquid asset and sometimes the university has to make tricky decisions,” Cronin said. “That’s understandable, but the problem is those decisions really affect people’s lives and create big instability.”
Several Chartered Student Organization leaders who were invited to attend the exclusive Golden Circle event declined the invitation, choosing instead to stand with their educators and fellow activists.
“I personally decided not to go to Golden Circle because of my position as director of Santa Clara Community Action Program (SCCAP),” senior Sarah Locklin said. “I felt in my gut that I couldn’t represent SCCAP in good faith at the event, not after all of the amazing work that SCCAPers and other students have contributed to the adjunct movement.”
Locklin noted SCCAP has been involved with adjunct lecturer and faculty unionization since last year.
She thought it was important to have a student presence at the demonstration not only to show donors that students care about professors, but also because some adjuncts expressed worry over losing their jobs or being harassed in the workplace for showing up.
“Sometimes shutting the door on an invitation speaks larger volumes than whatever you would be able to say at a meeting or an event,” Locklin said.
Other community organization who came out in support included several higher education institutions such as San Jose State University and University of San Francisco; members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) local 521, California Faculty Association, San Jose School Board and the South Bay Labor Council.
Speakers included Associated Student Body President Sam Perez, English adjunct lecturer Maggie Levantovskaya and Maria Noel Fernandez, campaign director of Silicon Valley Rising and Trustee of the South Bay Labor Council.
Most supporters cleared out by 6:30 p.m. when most of the Golden Circle attendees had already entered the venue.
Before Taylor’s performance, several members of the university community spoke to the 2,500-person audience.
One of which was Board of Trustees member Jeff Miller ‘73, who announced the university’s new $1B “Innovation with a Mission” campaign, its most ambitious fundraising effort to date.
Miller, who is co-chair of the campaign along with John A. Sobrato ‘60 revealed that the past four years have been the “quiet phase” of the campaign in which Santa Clara raised $570 million of the $1B goal.
“In the last four and a half years in the leadership phase we have raised almost $600 million,” Miller said. “To put that into perspective, the last campaign we had that took twice as long raised almost $400 million. So literally in half the time we’ve raised 50 percent more money.”
A handful of involved students also took to the stage to share how they’ve benefitted from opportunities at Santa Clara, primarily due to support from donors.
Senior Kristin Godfrey is a Jean Donovan Fellow and spoke of her experience teaching male inmates with violent records in San Francisco County Jail No. 5..
In early January, she was invited to speak at Golden Circle and began writing the first draft of her speech.
She sent it in to event organizers and received notes on what to focus on and how to structure the speech.
Godfrey ended up focusing on her fellowship and listening to marginalized voices, which included the line, “whether it’s listening to those who are incarcerated or if it’s listening to the voices of students, faculty and staff on our own campus.”
According to Godfrey, she was asked to remove that line and initially refused, but was then told that she could be pulled as a speaker if she did not comply.
“I ended up thinking that it would be better to get stuff out about the Ignatian Center and restorative justice in front of so many people then try to cancel something because they wouldn’t let me say that one line,” Godfrey said. “If we can’t change the stuff that’s so close to here, then what are we doing trying to change the world?”
Contact Erin Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.